A political group took credit late Friday for sending five men dressed in white and holding tiki torches to a campaign stop for Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin, attempting to tie the candidate to white supremacists.
The men were meant to imitate the supremacists seen at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
After photographs of the men were widely circulated by Democrats, the Lincoln Project, a group that claims to be Republican but generally supports Democrat candidates, said it was behind the stunt.
“Today’s demonstration was our way of reminding Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party’s embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin’s failure to condemn it,” the group said in a statement.
The campaign of Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, initially was among those that promoted the images.
“The Unite the Right rally was one of the darkest days in the Commonwealth’s history. this is who Glenn Youngkin’s supporters are,” Christina Freundlich, a campaign spokeswoman, wrote on Twitter.
After the Lincoln Project’s admission, campaign officials offered a new statement.
“What happened today in Charlottesville is disgusting and distasteful and the McAuliffe campaign condemns it in the strongest terms. Those involved should immediately apologize,” they said.
The Democratic Party of Virginia said it was not involved in the stunt.
Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, told reporters during his stop in Charlottesville that he believes the men who appeared work for McAuliffe.
“They’ll do anything to win, and he’s doing anything to win, and so he’s paying people to show up and act silly at our rallies,” he said.
The stunt drew widespread disapproval.
“How much more proof do we need that the Lincoln Project is nothing but a bunch of deranged hacks?” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter.
The Virginia gubernatorial race is on Nov. 2.